The Pursuit of Happyness (3 stars)

(12A) 117min

Inspired by a true story (meaning that the central protagonist is portrayed in a far better light than reality), the dour flavour used to show Chris Gardner’s (Will Smith) rags-to riches story makes this flick easier to admire for its unusually abject sensibility than enjoy as entertainment. Anything bad that could possible happen to Gardner does and will happen. His girlfriend Linda (Thandie Newton) ups and leaves him when it becomes apparent that the family is broke, leaving Chris to raise their young son (Jaden Smith, son of Will and Jada Pinkett). The 80s setting is established by Smith’s afro (which, apart from the grey specks, he’s borrowed from a young reverenced Jesse Jackson) and his completing a Rubik’s Cube to charm a stockbroker into giving him an internship. Alas, there’s a massive catch, the internship is unpaid and Chris survival skills are put to the test.

More woe follows as Gardner risks all to pursue happyness (the misspelling is on the mural at his son’s day care centre), ie. the American Dream. Smith needs to be in James Stewart mode to make his modern day George Bailey work, and for the most part he is and it’s dramatic form we’ve only ever seen him deliver in his cinematic debut Six Degrees of Separation. But director Gabriele Muccino (behind the overrated L’Ultima Bacho) has so overloaded the story with glib anecdotes that it’s often depressing and, worse, monotonous. Everything that is admirable, and there is much, is down to Smith’s verve.

The Pursuit of Happyness

  • 2 stars
  • 2006
  • US
  • 1h 57min
  • 12A
  • Directed by: Gabriele Muccino
  • Written by: Steven Conrad
  • Cast: Will Smith, Jaden Smith, Thandie Newton, Brian Howe, Dan Castellaneta

Chris Gardner (Smith)'s survival skills are put to the test when his girlfriend Linda (Newton) leaves him. With a son to look after (Smith's real life offspring, Jaden) and an unpaid internship for income, Gardner's pursuit of the American Dream (dubbed 'happyness') looks doomed. Smith Senior is up to the dramatic…